Business and Governments must unite to hit net zero target

November 5, 2021

A new survey by the British Chambers of Commerce has revealed how challenging net zero targets will be to hit unless governments work with businesses across the globe on making the transition.

More than 1,000 businesses, including some from the BCC’s International British Chamber Network, took part in the survey to understand what steps they are already taking to reach net zero and what support would encourage them to further reduce their carbon footprint.

It found most businesses were either unaware of or were not taking steps to get involved in key net zero strategies. These included the impact of changes to food supply chains (93%), a ‘Just Transition’ to net zero (93%), or the use of ‘nature-based solutions’ (89%).

It also highlighted that businesses want to see capital grants and tax allowances to support them to make the transition.

A previous BCC survey from July that found although most firms were taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, only one in 10 currently measure their carbon footprint, falling to just one in 20 for microbusinesses.

October survey findings

The latest data also highlight the divide between larger and smaller businesses, with only five per cent of firms with less than 10 employees carrying out an assessment on potential net zero changes to food supply chains, compared with 10 per cent of firms with more than 50 staff.

Firms of all sectors and sizes overwhelmingly said that either capital grants or tax allowances would do most to support them to reduce their carbon consumption in the long-term, with 61 per cent citing either of those options as the single most effective type of support. Businesses based outside the UK were also most likely to cite tax allowances as their preferred type of support.

The latest data survey also gave an indication of which of the UK’s 10 key priorities for a green industrial revolution were most important to them.

It found that 39 per cent recommend prioritising ‘protecting our natural environment’, while 34 per cent favoured ‘greener buildings’, 33 per cent ‘delivering new and advanced nuclear power’, 33 per cent ‘advancing offshore wind’, and 32 per cent ‘driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen’.

Reacting to the findings, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said: “Everyone is aware that the target of reaching net zero by 2050 is extremely challenging but of historic importance.

“There is a real danger that smaller businesses will get left behind unless politicians and business leaders come together to galvanise action.

“The steps a High Street hairdresser must take to get to net zero will be very different to those needed for a farmer or those of a component manufacturer.

“Larger firms need to help smaller businesses within their supply chains to adapt and adjust. The BCC has developed a Net Zero hub, in partnership with O2, to provide businesses with a one-stop shop on everything they need to know about setting Net Zero targets.

“Chambers are also working with their members to help them develop their plans to become carbon neutral. The East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce is providing smaller businesses with up to 50 per cent of the cost to install energy saving and low carbon technologies.

“Politicians, for their part, must find ways to help business help themselves, especially smaller firms concerned about extra costs and red tape if they want to adopt green technology and practices.

“What we are still lacking is much of the detail. There needs to be both carrot and stick for firms to make the change. We need to know how businesses will be supported to switch from gas boilers, when electric vehicle charging points will become commonplace, how our freight systems will be decarbonised and our energy sources diversified and stabilised.

“Inevitably, how we pay for all of this is a big question. The ambitious transition to a carbon neutral economy will put a huge strain on public sector finances in the years to come.

“The pandemic means many firms are still struggling to get themselves back on a sustainable footing and cannot currently bear additional tax rises that will further squeeze their cashflow.”